Wednesday, 15 August 2012

I am not a cyclist

I have many titles nowadays. Mother, wife, friend, vegetarian, artist, pedestrian, motorist (gasp), and every once and a while...cyclist. Truth be told, though, I really dislike being labelled or boxed into one category or type of person. To everyone I meet, I'm something different, but there is one label I will happily wear, no matter how often it's forgotten for the sake of another label. I am a human being. We all are, unless by some miracle other species' have now obtained the ability to read and comprehend the written word and are reading this. Unfortunately, this is a fact that seems to be forgotten all to often, especially when it comes to getting from point A to B in whatever means you use to get there.
One of the few photos of me driving...look, I'm actually smiling!
If you follow this blog, it's pretty clear that I travel by bicycle pretty much every day. But let me be clear, I AM NOT A CYCLIST. I am just a woman who loves to ride my bike around the city I live in, and love it even more when I get to do it with the people closest to me. I like to travel to different cities and discover them while on two wheels as well. Last summer I travelled to Quebec to visit my family back East, and the family and I rented some bikes and cycled along the Canal and St. Laurence in Montreal, and in a week, we will travel by train with our bikes to Portland, Oregon. Riding bikes is something I love to do, but it does not define me.
Cycling along the Canal in Montreal
Why is this an important distinction to make? Because these perceived titles blur reality and create discrimination and hostility where the need not be. When I am riding my bike, and am defined as a cyclist, people driving cars or walking forget that I am just like them, a human being trying to get to my destination. Defining someone by their means of transportation dehumanizes them, which I think is a very dangerous thing to do. On two wheels I am suddenly that "crazy" cyclist taking up a lane, riding too slowly, not wearing a helmet, or anything else that causes people to get so angry at those who ride bikes. They forget that I am taking the lanes so that vehicles don't pass me too closely, risking side swiping me or worse, right out hitting me. That I'm riding slowly because I'm climbing a difficult hill with only my own legs to get me to the top, or because I just plain like to take it easy when I ride. Riding a bike doesn't change the fact that I can be hurt, and does not mean I have a secret death wish by doing something deemed risky by some these days. It only means I am a human being on a bike because I like to use it to get to where I am going.

Now, before you think I am being an overly defensive "cyclist", please understand that this distinction applies to when I am a walking, on the bus or skytrain or driving a car as well. I cannot count the number of times I have been honked at while crossing the street with my children because I was going too slow at a crosswalk, or because I insisted on driving the speed limit when behind the wheel of a car. I have even been pushed aside trying to get on a bus or skytrain with and without my children. I strongly believe that if we took a moment to really think about who it is we are being so confrontational towards, whether we ourselves are walking, riding a bike, on public transit or in a motor vehicle, perhaps many conflicts could be avoided. I am by no means perfect, and have called people "ignorant motorists" in the past, or told other "cyclists" that they are giving the rest of us a bad name for their silly behaviour. But what is important is to try and remember these people all have lives outside of their transportation choices. They have families, friends, people who care about them and would be very sad if one of these conflicts caused them physical or emotional harm.
On the skytrain w/ a bike
So if you see me during my travels, whether on foot, riding a bike or in a vehicle, please remember, I am a wife, I am a mother, I am a close friend, but most of all, remember that I am a human being...and I will try do the same for you.
My babies and I on Mother's Day in Port Moody,
travelled to by bus.


  1. Nice writing Melissa, and an important topic I have often pondered. I felt the same thing when being asked if I was a cycle tourist... my response would be: no, I'm not a cycle tourist. I'm a person travelling around on my bike. Right now. Later on I'll be walking. And eventually I'll sleep! But we are always human beings - first! Great post :)

    1. Thanks so much, Brenna! I think everyone is guilty of forgetting things like this, and thought it would be a friendly reminder about goodwill!